First Place – 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Touring
Subaru Impreza 2.0i Touring sedan. Click image to enlarge
When Subaru restyled the Impreza for 2012, they wanted to focus more on fuel efficiency and quality materials while still retaining the Impreza’s fun-to-drive characteristics; well, as Meatloaf said “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad”. What Subaru has done is taken the Impreza from somewhere near the back of the compact-car pack in terms of interior quality and moved it up near the front. The entire Impreza feels far more expensive and luxurious than it is. Soft-touch materials are found throughout the interior and feature a nice look and feel. The HVAC controls with their firm rubber outer grips exude a solid and expensive presence. The seats are comfortable and the cloth material is nice to the touch. Although our Impreza lacked the upgraded leather-wrapped steering wheel, the standard foam steering wheel was one of the nicest I have used in recent memory. But then there is the radio. It looks out of place in the vehicle and looks like an afterthought add-on unit not fully integrated into the dash. This does make it possible to have a touchscreen infotainment unit swapped in for the Impreza Limited, however.
On the road, the Impreza features a remarkably quiet interior. Road and wind noise are very subdued and unobtrusive. Everything is great as long as you never have to get on the gas. A flurry of boxer-four-cylinder thrash and CVT whine dominate your ear drums. We are not sure whether the Impreza is louder than the Lancer, but it is more pronounced in the Impreza since the Lancer is always loud. Whereas the Lancer sounds like an angry snowmobile spooling up, the Impreza is more akin to a Bobcat tractor from your local road works department. Noise aside, the CVT in the Impreza is one of the better units we have tried and lacks the mechanical hiss of the Lancer’s CVT. It will even simulate “gear changes” if left under wide open throttle for an extended period of time.
The Impreza is the lighter vehicle at 1,350 kg versus 1,415 kg for the Lancer. With a smaller 2.0L four-cylinder engine making a modest 148 hp and 145 ft-lb of torque, the Impreza is the slower of the two, as mentioned earlier. However, during our mostly highway testing the Impreza’s savings on weight and displacement shone through as it managed an impressive 8.0 L/100 km average while the Lancer, which was driven in 2WD mode most of the week, was only able to achieve 9.1 L/100 km.
In the corners, the Impreza feels very composed in its own right with flat, semi-neutral handling that is better than expected for being equipped as a mid-level Touring trim. But once driven back to back with the Lancer, it is clear the Impreza is the softer of the two and lacks the precise feel of the Mitsubishi. The obvious tradeoff Subaru made benefits it in how smooth the Impreza rides down the road.
In the end, the difference between the two models comes down to personal preference and priorities. The four of us that tested these two sedans all chose the Lancer as the better car to drive. But we also all picked the Impreza as the car we thought was better overall and the one we would own. Perhaps my wife best summed it up after a quick test of both vehicles; “I prefer driving the Lancer, but the Subaru is the more mature vehicle. Years down the road I would be less tired of the Impreza and would be sick of the Lancer’s interior, noise, and fuel consumption.” Nonetheless, despite the Impreza’s numeric victory, it is safe to say that there are now two good choices if you need all-wheel drive in a compact car, and, at $23,000, neither will break the bank.
Pricing: 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Touring 4-Door
Base price: $22,995
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $24,790
Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Subaru Impreza